By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
Popular local jockey Benny Woodworth had a day out on Saturday after he booted home his 400th Kranji winner before knocking two more wins for a superb riding treble for good measure.
The milestone for the Malaysian hoop came at the first pin of the hat-trick of wins aboard $7 odds-on favourite Sacred Gift in the $20,000 Open Maiden race over 1000m.
The youthful 47-year-old, who took silver to Vlad Duric in the Singapore premiership last year, went on to ride a race-to-race double aboard old stager (10-year-old) Host The Nation (for trainer Mok Zhan Lun, $37) in the $30,000 Class 5 Division 3 race over 1200m, before wrapping the red-letter day with a hat-trick of wins on pick-up ride Luck Of Master ($20) in the $50,000 Class 4 race over 1600m.
A former four-time champion apprentice jockey, and once in the senior riding ranks on the Malayan Racing Association (MRA) circuit, Woodworth was hot on the heels of Duric in the second half of the 2019 season only to see a late slew of suspensions for careless riding derail his dreams of a first title at Kranji.
He even appealed against the suspensions and got a stay of execution as a last lifeline to keep his chances alive, but Duric eventually drew clear for an undisputed third consecutive crown.
For Woodworth, it was a bit of an anticlimactic conclusion to what had been otherwise a prolific season, but the gifted rider has bounced back in the best possible way at the second meeting of the new season (he was still serving his suspension at the New Year’s Day meeting).
The big haul has already put him at the top with French jockey Marc Lerner whose double on Saturday – Water Rocket and Bebop – also took his score to three (he won on Hooga Net on January 1).
As for Duric, the defending champion jockey did start his new campaign on a good note with a double on January 1 – Afalonhro and Altair – but drew a blank on Saturday and was even stood down for dehydration halfway through the day.
“It’s great to get my 400th win at Kranji. I take this opportunity to thank the Singapore Turf Club for extending my licence for another year,” said Woodworth.
“Last year was one my best seasons in Singapore and it was a close fight with Vlad. It wasn’t the end I would have hoped for, but I’m still happy with my season.
“I couldn’t have hoped for a better start to the new year. Sacred Gift won very well, he has some barrier issues, but (Singapore Turf Club starter) John Pepe has done a very good job with him.
“To be honest, I expected him to win as the field was not very strong, but I think there is more improvement to come out of him.
“It was great to win on Host The Nation, too. He may be 10 but he showed a lot of youth and fight out there.
“The last win was a pick-up ride (Luck Of Master) for my good friend Desmond Koh. The horse was drawn wide (12) and I didn’t want to be caught too wide, so that’s why I dropped at the rear as that’s his racing pattern, anyway.
“Down the backstraight, I pulled him out and tacked behind Michael’s (Rodd) horse (Mighty Kenny). As he had to go around the field, his turn of foot was not as strong in the end, but he still won a nice race.”
The New Zealand-bred five-year-old by Mastercraftsman indeed took some time to warm up to the task on the outskirts of the field, but under Woodworth’s typically strong handling, he put his rivals to the sword inside the last furlong, beating favourite Mighty Kenny by 1 ¾ lengths.
Legend Rocks (Daniel Moor) ran third another 1 ¼ lengths away. The winning time was 1min 40.05secs for the Polytrack mile.
Luck Of Master has now taken his record to two wins and one third from five starts for prizemoney around the $40,000 mark for the Luck Of Friendship Stable.